[FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE, I'VE BROKEN THIS POST INTO CHAPTERS SO YOU CAN TELL IF YOU WANT TO INVEST YOUR READING TIME ON THE SEGMENTS.]
saturday night was so hot, the air in central hillside thick as a sudafed and draino stew. i love hot nights. i love to hate hot nights, rue them and use them as an excuse to fall face-first into a vat of margaritas. until my skin is pruned and my fluency, coordination, sense of decency are stalled at an elementary school level. when its hot, i want to be loud and social and dressed in the least amount of clothing legal outside of wisconsin point.
but i ignored the call to be wild, and instead decided i could trick my body with a midnight inline skate to chuck's house. one mile of mostly-flat, quite public and decently lit sidewalks. past at least three or four bars. i could have my fun and skate it, too.
HOW I CAME TO GET MY SKATES
i receieved new inline skates as a birthday gift at the end of last summer. and then, last summer, i wore them once outside of my carpeted apartment. about fifty cool feet before realizing that these skates, these marked-down-from-more-than $300 skates, are faster than my legs and more adventageous than my soul and that i should probably stow them away in my closet where i hide all of my disillusionment. besides, it would probably snow soon. and toonses had begun chewing on the laces.
i sensed this when i picked them out. that i was out of my league. that different skates are made for different people and that my skates are for people in red spandex with numbers affixed to their chests and the CEO of adidas on speed dial. but i really like skating. and i didn't want to buy the skates made specially for people who cling to one all-conference triple jump in 1996 and a sixth-to-last finish in a marathon in 2004 as great athletic triumphs. call me vain.
MY HISTORY AS A PERSON WHO SKATES
i have, for my entire life, owned skates. first a tin pair of roller skates that i could strap onto my blue nikes, and, with a crank of a screw, could accomadate me as i went up four or five shoe sizes. i clanked down the sidewalk sounding like recycling on wheels. then, in order to keep up stylisticly with jenny hanson -- who lived down the street and took roller skating lessons at skate country and wore actual flimsy skating skirts and had pom poms on her laces and a skating partner she kind of wanted to kiss -- i finally got a brand new pair of white roller skates.
most songs by lionel richie, phil collins, wham, cindy lauper, and a handful of top 40 hits from the years 1983-1986 remind me of roller skating in circles in my basement for hours. and hours. and hours. and listening to a boom box.
my brother got inline skates when they were still just ice skates boots with wheels attached. that summer our family went to orlando, fla., on vacation and he spent the nondisney hours skating around the cabin we were renting. he attracted a small crowd of people who had never seen roller skates like this before. years later, i was watching a pop culture documentary on mtv and kurt loder said that inline skates were brought to the warmer states by farm kids from minnesota. while we weren't farmers, i knew that kurt loder was talking about my brother.
when they became more popular and eventually added a brake to them, i got my own inline skates and i skated a lot. i'd call my friends nora and denise from the cross country team and say: "hey, kid. wanna skate?" and that, in fact, is part of my senior quote in the 1994 lourdes high school yearbook.
on my second day of college, i got drunk. my cousin nerissa, who lived on my floor, strapped my into my rollerblades with a warning to be careful. i made it from dowling hall to st. thomas' south campus before i took a digger next to a classroom where i'd later take theology. i limped back on one skate. the next day, nerissa laughed her ass off and knew exactly what had happened.
later my freshman year i met a former hockey player from austin, minn., who looked like tom hanks, and i liked him anyway. we used to skate from 1-3 a.m., circles around the campus. cleveland, summit, cretin and selby down the middle of the road. it didn't make him fall in love with me. then a sprinter on the track team taught me how to catch air off of the speed bumps in the dorm parking lots. and so i began to dabble in trick skating in jean shorts with no padding or fear. when i went with the track team on the spring trip to santa barbara, most of my teammates got tattoos. i skated through town with another triple jumper, steve. we were sexual tension on wheels. he wanted to be a fireman. we never even kissed.
in rochester i skated around silver lake. sometimes i skated to work. i skated a lot, but mostly i ran.
in duluth, i've always felt it necessary to own skates and upgrade every few years and maybe even sometimes sign up for the inline marathon, yet rarely touch them.
WHICH BRINGS US BACK TO YESTERDAY
i wobbled up the steet. if i'd been in water, you'd have thought i was drowning. i was one of those people i hate. an uncontrollable, uncoordinated old lady on wheels flailing SOS with her arms. you probably thought i was directing traffic.
i got a block ahead of some dude who said:
"miss? can you help me?"
i said: "no."
but what i meant was: "does it look like i can help you? i'm on wheels!"
who, aside from someone with wheels attached to her feet, would even realize that fourth street is downhill? not this lady who almost died skating over a twig in front of last chance liquor.
someone whistled at me.
i almost fell face first on an asphalt chunk going up an avenue.
WHICH BRINGS US TO TODAY
i don't like to do things i'm not good at. this is why i don't golf. this is why i don't allow anyone to use numbers in my presense. and right now, i'm really not good at inline skating. i'm laughable.
i tried again today. stood at the top of an avenue first street and imagined that if i went down this hill, i'd be wearing a bus for the rest of my life. i took one step forward and fell on my ass just thinking about going down. i was staring down the hill when bubbles pulled up at the stoplight and asked me what i was doing.
"thinking," i said. showed her my skates. nodded down the hill.
in the time it took her to park, i had fallen again and then relegated myself to the grass.
at that point i put my pride aside and asked if i could cling to her like a squealing maniac as i rolled down the hill to a flatter surface. she agreed. first i attached myself like a monchichi. then i had to grab harder. at the bottom, my sherpa and i parted ways, and i skated downtown toward the lakewalk.
at the pier, i did laps until i started to feel like i had my skate legs back.
i was cruising up a hill. chugging, actually, and a man asked me if i had time to learn about jesus christ.
"i've already heard about him," i said, skating away.
on first street i felt i was going to pass out, so i sat on a park bench across the street from the pioneer. a man walked past and laughed. i wanted to say:
"will you go into the pio and get me some water, please? tell them its for christa."
sitting hurt, so i laid very unladylikely and decided i didn't care which member of the YMCA could see what up my terry cloth shorts. fifteen minutes later i realized today was not the last day of my memoir in motion. this heat stroke would go away. so i skated back to my car and took off my demon wheels.
i'm gonna get good at this again. or literally die trying.